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How Is a Body Prepared for Cremation?

When someone dies, there are only two ways that the body may be disposed: 1. It can be buried; or 2. It can be cremated.

Cremation is becoming more and more popular in the US and that has been the tendency for the last few years and it seems that it will keep on growing. So, people are choosing more and more cremation over burial and one thing that we want talk about today is how is a body prepared for cremation.

According to the Funeralwise portal, these are the steps of a cremation:

Cremated remains are commonly referred to as “ashes,” however, in reality, they consist primarily of bone fragments. It is important to recognize that the cremated remains of the body are commingled with any remains of the container as well as any other incidental by-products of the incineration. Cremation produces 3 to 9 pounds of remains, depending on the size of the body and the process used by the crematory.

The actual process of cremation consists of five basic steps.

  1. The deceased is identified, and proper authorization is obtained.
  2. The body is prepared and placed into a proper container.
  3. The container with the body is moved to the “retort” or cremation chamber.
  4. After cremation, the remaining metal is removed, and the remains are ground.
  5. The “ashes” are transferred to either a temporary container or in an urn provided by the family.

We will today concentrate on number 2, how is a body prepared for cremation?

Usually the body is bathed, cleaned, and dressed before the identification process. The body is not embalmed, unless you request a public viewing.

Next, jewelry or other items that you would like to keep are removed. Any medical device and/or prosthetics that are mechanical or contain batteries are also removed. This is to prevent reaction during the cremation process. Items such as pins, screws, and joints remain in place. Recycling policies for medical devices vary by facility but in no case are the devices reused as is. They are disassembled, melted down, or disposed of in some other responsible method.

There are special caskets made for cremation or a simple cardboard box may be also used. The key rule is that the container must be sturdy enough to hold the body and it must be combustible.

Then the body is placed with the box or casket in the furnace or cremation chamber, referred to as a retort, which is an industrial furnace that is large enough to hold one body. Fire resistant bricks line the chamber and can withstand temperatures up to 2000 degrees. Modern cremation furnaces follow according to strict environmental and air quality standards. Natural gas, propane, or diesel fuels the furnaces. They are also automated and computerized.

After incineration, the remains are cooled. The operator inspects the remains for remnants of metal left behind and removes them by hand or with strong magnets.

We refer to cremated remains as ashes but what is left behind is actually bits of bone. After cremation, a special processor grinds the fragments into what we call “cremains.” This is what we mean when we refer to ashes.

The cremains or ashes are then transferred to a temporary container or a cremation urn, or one cremation urn and keepsakes or cremation jewelry, that will be taken by family and friends.

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